Reading Time: 15 minutes

The Problem of the Industrial Revolution

Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, every new generation in industrial society has, on average, enjoyed more comfort than the previous one. As people get more comfort, they begin to believe that a comfortable life is just a normal thing. They feel entitled to comforts and demand greater comfort for lesser sacrifice. Machines and technologies are believed to be the way to give humans more comfort. Technology is expected to magically produce everything out of nothing.

Practically nobody understands that the net cost of creating, running, maintaining, and improving a machine is greater than the same cost for a human because a human is naturally intelligent, but a machine is not. A human self-improves, self-corrects, and self-heals but a machine has to be improved, corrected, and healed by humans. The real costs of owning, operating, and maintaining a machine are hidden when scarce natural resources produced over millions of years are consumed at a far lower cost and far quicker than it would take a human to produce them.

The costs of machine consumption don’t stay hidden forever. They are realized when people begin to run out of natural resources. Then they have to live without those resources or work harder and longer to obtain those resources. Those who believe in the false promise of eternal enjoyment at low costs are then rudely awakened by reality and feel angry. They use violent methods to get what they cannot get easily, which further increases the problem and decreases the future potential for comfort. Thus, a cycle of growing anger and reducing comfort iterates and destroys the industrial society. The destruction is not a question of if but only a question of when.

The Delusions of the Industrial Revolution

There is a law of nature—every benefit has an equal cost. When something of value is received then something of equal value must be given. The value of the benefit cannot be greater than the value of the cost. The Industrial Revolution was premised on violating this law of nature as people assumed that they could get something for nothing. Nature was going to give them resources forever. There was always cheap or free labor available to work those resources to generate comfort for others.

At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, resources and labor were stolen from places that could provide them, and the resulting benefits were transferred to the stealers. The thieves of resources and labor could see that while they get the benefits, the cost is borne by others. However they did not publicize this unbalanced equation, and they assumed this plunder would continue indefinitely. They normalized the tendency to take without developing the tendency to give. They accumulated mountains of debt—which are nothing but false promises to repay in the future.

Theft is not infinite. It works in the beginning. Slowly, it gets harder to steal. And eventually, we get nothing. By then, those living in comfort have lost their ability to give. They expect to continue receiving without giving, but the law of nature forces them to give without receiving. After all, the law of nature has to balance the equation of value received and given. If a lot of value has already been taken, instead of getting without giving, people now have to give without getting.

Industrialization is a Cyclical Process

Industrialization of some societies was predicated on the deindustrialization of other societies. It was a zero-sum game, it remains a zero-sum game, and it will be a zero-sum game. For example, as cotton mills were being created in Britain, India was forced to destroy its garment industry. The prosperity of some countries was built on the poverty of others. This is not a permanent state of nature. It was just the upward path on a cycle for some people just as it was the downward path for others. The situation will reverse. The industrialized societies will get deindustrialized and the deindustrialized societies will get industrialized. The deindustrializing societies will offer cheap or free resources and labor to societies that are industrializing. Nature goes in cycles if we do not understand nature’s laws.

Passing through these cycles, industrializing and deindustrializing societies undergo different problems. The industrializing society gets used to comfort, loses an understanding of its costs, starts demanding more comfort, and piles mountains of debt—which is nothing but false a promise of giving something in the future. The deindustrializing society goes through anger, depression, and indulgence in degrading forms of pleasure to deal with the frustration of dashed false hopes. Obviously, this affects the newer generation more than the older generations.

Industrialization has bad effects on both industrializing and deindustrializing societies. Industrializing societies get more demanding, entitled, ignorant, and lazy as they pass the costs of their consumption onto deindustrializing societies. The deindustrializing societies get more depressed, angry, and frustrated, and seek degrading forms of pleasure to deal with their dashed hopes. Hence, moral decline is the natural outcome of industrialization. Industrializing and deindustrializing societies, however, undergo different kinds of moral problems that arise from excessive lazy enjoyment and relentless unrewarding overwork respectively.

The Nature of Industrialized Education

The modern education system is the gift of the European Enlightenment that was displacing people from traditional skills-based roles into industrial work. Industrialization needed people who knew advanced arithmetic, geometry, algebra, calculus, physics, chemistry, economics, finance, and psychology to create large industrial organizations that were in turn going to do production based on economies of scale. Societies that had lived for centuries without such types of education were pushed out of their vocations into industrial labor. All skills-based roles were vocations replaced by machine operators. Education was needed to fill the roles being created by industrialization and kill the previously prevalent roles.

The industrialized model of education was closely modeled after a factory churning out widgets. Nuts and bolts have standard sizes. Standardization of textbooks, courses, teachers, and examinations was the result of thinking of a school as a factory churning out nuts and bolts rather than educated people. Each employer would give standardized requirements for their industrial needs and universities would take those requirements and craft textbooks, courses, teachers, and examinations after them. To ensure that the workforce churned out by universities was appropriate to the varied industrial demands, schools started standardizing children in dozens of subjects designed to make them fit the industrial society.

The hallmark of an industrial society is economies of scale. A large corporation employs dozens of roles such as human resources, sales managers, marketing personnel, litigant lawyers, project managers, supply chain experts, factory workers, product engineers, people managers, finance experts, government liaisons, and divisional heads to execute the varied functions of a large industrialized corporation.

In a free market system, nobody knows where the demands of labor will come from. Hence, schools and colleges try to train every student in every subject. A skills-based education system would train them on a few productive skills in a stable economic environment. But industrial education foists on the masses a 20-year pursuit of graduation because it is the bare minimum requirement for a person to enter the industrial workforce. When we try to train children in so many subjects, we end up training them in absolutely nothing. The process of graduation neither guarantees relevant skills for the employers hiring new graduates nor does it guarantee employment for the employees who have struggled for 20 years for graduation.

At present, employers give skills-based education to new graduates as part of their on-the-job training at their own cost. The graduates forget all that they memorized during school or college after they enter the workforce. The workforce still relies on skills-based education. The school and college system is just an industry that churns out graduates without real-world skills. We cannot have a good or bad education policy for this system. The whole system is irredeemable and utterly flawed.

The Effect of Industrialization on Education

Machines don’t do right or wrong. They are not responsible for good and bad. They don’t produce true or false claims. These are human acts. But an industrialized society forgets about truth, right, and good. It separates morality from other subjects and calls it the secularization of education. Morals become private beliefs. They cannot be taught in a school or college since people might not agree on what they are. By objectification of the education system, morality is disregarded. In the objectified world, machines are amoral. As the study of machines becomes the de facto scientific paradigm of everything in reality, even humans are modeled after machines. Since machines have no morals, humans end up without them as well.

Since industrialization is a cyclical process, every society—whether currently on the path of industrialization or deindustrialization—will always suffer from a different set of moral problems arising either from excessive lazy enjoyment or extremely unrewarding overwork. Whether you are very rich or very poor, you will be immoral. Wealth and poverty are not guaranteed. Immorality is guaranteed.

No immoral society wants lectures on morality. They can see the gaps between moral expectations and immoral realities every day. Teaching children about morality invites questions about the immoral conduct of their parents, teachers, and leaders. Neither can the immoral society give answers to these questions nor can it stop its children from emulating what its parents, teachers, and leaders do. Thus, moral education is not just undesirable (because there are huge gaps between expectation and reality) and troublesome (because it invites questions that have no answers), but also futile (because we cannot give children high moral standards if we cannot change the parents, teachers, and leaders prior).

The Vedic System of Societal Education

With this background on the adverse effects of industrialization on society in general and education in particular, we can talk about how the Vedic system imparted education to the newer generations. The Vedic system of education did not emphasize book reading except for a small class of children who were diagnosed early in life to be Brahmanas. Only Brahmanas studied books. Others were literate but not scientists, philosophers, thinkers, or guides. They were, of course, experts in their respective areas.

The Kshatriyas went to a military school where they learned various martial arts. Each country had a military school that trained thousands of soldiers. There were some elite military schools for would-be princes and kings and a select elite family children went to such schools. In rare cases, when teachers were Brahmanas, they gave mantras to select pupils that could be used to launch advanced weapons. Learning a mantra was not heavy-duty education. That education was less than 1% of the rest.

The Vaisyas and Sudras mostly carried on with their family tradition of work, art, and craft. The farmers would farm, there were communities that maintained cows, and each type of vocational professional such as carpenters, masons, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, weavers, cobblers, and so on, would mostly carry on with their family art and craft. In rare cases, one could become an apprentice of a craftsman to learn.

The reality is that society doesn’t need bookworms. Even in a Varṇāśrama society, 99% of people belong to the Kshatriya, Vaisya, and Sudra classes. They undergo what we would call a skills-based education. Every kingdom needs a king and a few capable ministers who need to be educated in the modern sense of sitting in a classroom. Every society needs a handful of capable Brahmanas to guide the people. Hence, it is not unfair to say that 99% of a Varṇāśrama society is not educated in the modern sense. They are expert warriors, accountants, farmers, businessmen, craftsmen, and workers. But that needs focused skills-based education rather than a generic education that forces memorization of a dozen subjects.

Dilemmas of the Vedic Style Education

People who talk about giving Vedic Gurukul-style education generally have no clue what education used to be. They cannot even recall how society was structured before the Industrial Revolution. They cannot imagine that there was a time when most people just did skills-based apprenticeships and quickly became productive without sitting in a classroom for 20 years with no guaranteed employment after graduating. They cannot imagine that books were read by less than 1% of society. 99% of people were just literate, namely, they could do reading, writing, and arithmetic, but did not need to read books beyond that.

Hence, there is a fundamental contradiction between the Vedic system of skills-based labor vs. the modern industrialized labor. In the Vedic system, children needed to learn a few practical skills to become productive. In the modern industrialized society, they need to cram dozens of subjects, sitting in a classroom for 20 years to memorize irrelevant facts, theories, formulas, and figures, to even get their first well-paying industrial job. The dilemmas for the Vedic style of education are rooted in the conflict between the modern industrial system and the pre-industrial skills-based labor system. Should we prepare children for an industrial workforce where knowing all subjects is necessary for any gainful employment? Or should we prepare them for a pre-industrial society that relied on a few practical skills to obtain gainful employment, although such a society no longer exists except in rare pockets?

Parents cannot send their children to a school where they will be prepared for a pre-industrial society. But they also don’t want to send their children to a school that will prepare them for an industrial society due to its obvious problems—(a) the 20-year-long system is oppressive, expensive, and worthless as people forget everything they learned through this education, and (b) it makes their children immoral, or at best, amoral robots who are fit to work as industrial labor but mostly unfit to behave as a good human being.

Even talking about a skills-based education at variance from the industrialized system is too risky today because it will make the child unfit to live, work, contribute, and prosper in an industrialized society. We cannot educate and prepare children for a pre-industrial society when the present society is almost completely industrial. When machines are the model by which society is run, there is no place for a system of education that treats society as an organism. There is no place for a moral system of education at present either.

Need for Economic and Political Reform

Education can be reformed only if economics moves away from large corporations to small businesses. In a small business, we don’t need human resources, sales managers, marketing personnel, litigant lawyers, project managers, supply chain experts, factory workers, product engineers, people managers, finance experts, government liaisons, and divisional heads to execute the functions of a large corporation. We just need lots of people with basic skills that can be acquired through hands-on on-the-job work.

Similarly, the government has to reform to become small and nimble. The government is not supposed to provide social security, children’s education, healthcare, child support for divorced mothers, and massive free food programs for people being marginalized because they are unable to get jobs in mega corporations and mega governments. The government is supposed to ensure law and order and protect it from external threats. People should not expect job reservation and job creation programs.

Without economic and political reform, education cannot be reformed because most of society is relying on mega corporations generating a lot of money, then giving it to the government through taxes, so that the government can distribute it as freebies to the people unemployable in the mega-government and mega-corporation. The situation is fundamentally unsustainable because most of the people are unproductive and this unproductive class along with the government will accumulate endless debt.

To make society productive and self-reliant, we have to move away from mega-corporation and mega-government models of running a society. Then 99% of people don’t need school and college education because they will acquire skills-based education through on-the-job training and employment in small businesses. Then the present-day industrial system of education will naturally collapse because who wants to spend 20 years acquiring a degree that will just prove to be indebting and worthless?

We have to remember that 99% of society is Kshatriya, Vaisya, and Sudra. They need skills-based jobs. They don’t need books. They know reading, writing, and arithmetic, but nothing more is needed. Of course, everyone needs moral education. But they get it from the remaining 1% for almost free. When adults follow the 1% Brahmanas, who have been educated through books, then the remaining 99% have obtained their moral education through leaders, teachers, and parents, and don’t need school or college. They can just go to a gurukul to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic or even do it at home. As they grow up, they can work in small businesses and become productive rather than societal burdens.

Skills-Based Education is Very Cheap

We can teach children coding in a year if they know reading, writing, and arithmetic and have access to a computer. They don’t need to know physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, and dozens of other such things that are being taught in colleges trying to churn out a useful programmer. In fact, all the big coders who created startups were college dropouts honing their coding skills rather than learning physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, and dozens of other irrelevant subjects. The dropouts invested time in relevant skills while those who stayed in colleges, wasted time, money, and energy on fruitless pursuits.

There is nothing fixed about skills-based education. It changes from time to time, place to place, situation to situation, and person to person. Everyone can acquire skills if they know reading, writing, and arithmetic. We don’t need to teach a child hundreds of things before we teach them relevant skills for a job. Only if we stop teaching useless subjects and focus on skill acquisition will the time, money, and effort spent in the modern industrialized system of education come down drastically and make people productive faster.

There is nothing Vedic about skills-based education. There are certainly good practices that should be accepted and bad practices that should be avoided. Everyone has the common sense to do those things if we don’t entice and indoctrinate them with falsehoods, lies, greed, and corrupt laws and practices.

Basic Tenets of Moral Life Education

The common education for 99% of children is, apart from skills-based education, about moral character, which is not given in any system at present. When society is moral, children get this education from parents and elders. They see people following high moral standards and they learn those standards. A child has an impressionable mind and learns more from observation than memorization. The former inculcates culture, morals, and values of life. Memory-based education is just for passing exams.

There are five parts of this moral education, called Āchār (healthy habits), Vichār (healthy thoughts), Āhār (healthy food), Vihār (healthy entertainment), and Vyavahāra (healthy relationships). Each of these is a big topic in itself. These are not trivial. But they are not fragmented subjects like physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, economics, sociology, psychology, cosmology, law, finance, and so on. We also don’t need to sit in a classroom to learn these subjects. Education rather is a continuous process that occurs throughout the day beginning in childhood when we learn to follow the above five principles of a healthy human life. Education does not end when we graduate. It continues throughout one’s life without entering a classroom.

In this regard, we can draw a distinction between mental memory and judgment memory. Mental memory is used during modern education to remember facts and figures. The deep memory that carries values, morals, beliefs, and virtues of life is created through impressionable observation. This is why what children learn during childhood goes deep while what they learn later stays shallow. We can easily forget the things that we learn in school and college but we remember childhood lessons for life.

Moral lessons were imparted in Vedic times through parents and grandparents telling moral stories from the Purāṇa and Itihāsa under a joint family system when multiple generations lived together dutifully. The children grew up with moral heroes and heroines, saw their parents, teachers, and leaders following those moral examples (because they too had been so educated during their childhood), and naturally followed the examples. They also narrated the same stories to their children and grandchildren.

Basic Tenets of Brahmanical Education

The Vedic system of politics, economics, and sociology depends on the most educated Brahmanas. All Acharyas have therefore emphasized the creation of a class of Brahmanas who can guide the society in the construction of a moral political, economic, and social order. 99% of people don’t need books. They just need skills-based education. But that cannot work without the 1% well-educated in books. This is not societal discrimination because nobody is forbidden from becoming a Brahmana. Most people don’t become Brahmanas because they don’t have the aptitude or inclination toward such endeavors.

Children don’t learn from books. They learn by observing adults. If adults are immoral, then children will be immoral because (a) you cannot preach morality without practicing it, and (b) whatever morals you preach will be disregarded and replaced by the type of immorality in the parents, teachers, and leaders. Those who don’t understand the tendency of children to emulate their parents, teachers, and leaders, can waste their time in moral education for children but without role models, there will be no morals.

Therefore, adults have to be educated before children because children will follow adults. Children’s education that doesn’t follow adult education will always remain a failed model of education. We cannot get better children without getting better parents, teachers, and leaders. Trying to produce a moral generation without reforming the prior generations will remain a delusional and futile exercise.

The creation of a moral adult population in turn depends on adult Brahmanas. The requirements of a Brahmanical education are very stringent. Moral conduct and character are also of the highest order. This is why Brahmanas are considered the leaders of society. But Brahmanas are just 1% of society. The other 99% are Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras which rely on Brahmanical knowledge. If we have to transform society, then we have to create Brahmanas. They can in turn educate other adults, who will then not only educate their children and grandchildren but also transform society’s political, economic, and social system. This process is long and arduous. But industrial transformation also took several generations. If we have to reverse that process then we must have at least that much courage and determination exhibited by the previous generations that degraded the society in the past.

The reality at present is the reverse. Adults don’t want to change themselves. They just want to change the children. Many people have approached me at various points in time asking me pointed questions about children’s education. Their complaint is that I am only writing for adults and not for children. My counter is: Why don’t you learn Vedic philosophy and teach it to the children? The response is often stunned silence. My idea of uplifting the adults doesn’t sound very appealing to them because all adults think that they are fine. They want to change the world without changing themselves. This is the most futile kind of desire. It precisely corresponds to the desire to preach without practicing.